Coming to the end

Rosie is leaving us.

I had ordered boots for her front feet, thinking she would like it if I could lead her out the quiet roads as I rode Ben; ignoring the fact that her painful walking, shaky legs and stumbling were not coming from her hooves, but from her legs.  When she walked, her head was low, her spirit dull, she looked far older than she is.  This has not come suddenly, but, despite fleeting moments of her old spirit, slowly, inexorably she has seemed to lessen before our eyes.  She will not touch hay, there is little grass, so I give her haylage and she chews it slowly, seemingly absent-mindedly, from some very far away place.  The vet has come, the dentist has come, the vet has come again.

One day I sat on the ground beside her and she lowered her head to my lap. Is it time to go? I whispered. She was very still. Are you ready? Silence, but I knew her answer. She has been ready for months and I have not seen it. I sat in the stable yard that evening and Ben and Rosie gathered near me as they usually do. I tried to quiet my mind. But all I could visualise was Rosie, dying. At that moment, Ben herded Rosie up the track in some agitation. I stayed put. Only when my mind felt clear I went up to them. What do they need from me right now? I thought. Calmness and confidence. I walked up the track. Ben turned his head to me. I am in charge Ben. I will mind you. He breathed on my hand. I moved over to Rosie. She stayed quiet, in that aura of total peace that surrounds her. Every now and then she turned her head and just touched my hand. Rosie was minding me.

The next morning our vet came out. I have asked him before if Rosie was ready to go, not really afraid of the answer. And he said, no, not yet. This morning he said that she is. I knew this already. Rosie had told me. Before he left, I asked in some panic – am I doing the right thing? A shy man, he looked me full in the eyes. Yes you are he said.

We are devastated. She is part of our family and we are all devastated. I cry at stupid times. I cannot talk myself through this, Rosie has touched me at a much deeper place. The only place I do not cry is in the paddock. Neither Ben nor Rosie need my sentiment. Rosie is withdrawing day by day. Ben looks worried and if my sadness surfaces he leaves me and herds Rosie away, bossing her in some agitation. Chop wood, carry water it is said. And at least with ponies there are plenty of manual tasks to be done. I fill and carry water buckets. I tidy. I muck out. I pull haylage out of its tight bale, breathing in its uniquely strong smell and placing it around the paddock, not worrying if Ben eats too much. I pull ragwort. I focus as never before on the present moment, disciplining my mind because Ben does not need any agitation or emotion from me. Chop wood, carry water. And so we pass this time until the end comes later this week.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Coming to the end

  1. Maire,
    so sorry to hear that Rosie’s time has come. The last thing we can do for our animals is give them a death free from suffering. The hardest thing is knowing when the time is right. I had an identical experience to you with Cayely, my first bearded collie (Steffi’s & Molly’s mum). We all knew the end was coming but one day she just put her head in my lap and let all of its weight fall on me. “Tomorrow” I promised her, and I had no doubt it was the right time.
    You will still grieve for Rosie but there is some comfort in being sure it’s the right thing to do.

  2. This is so sad. I’m so sorry for you all. It’s never easy to make a decision and then wonder if you are doing the right thing by Rosie. We’ve all had to do it and get through the process of grief. If we had never loved so much it wouldn’t hurt so bad. I’m wishing you well when the day comes and will be thinking of you and Rosie. i feel like I know her and I will remember her as you will. Think of the happy times with Rosie and keep them close.

    Here’s something that has always helped me when I’ve faced a heartbreak like this:
    Where to Bury a Horse

    If you bury her in this spot,
    the secret of which you must already have,
    she will come to you when you call;
    come to you over the far, dim pastures of death.

    And though you ride other living horses through life,
    they shall not shy at her, nor resent her coming,
    For she is yours, and she belongs there.

    People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass
    bent by her footfall,
    who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears.
    People who may never really love a horse.

    Smile at them then, for you shall know something
    that is hidden from them
    and which is well worth the knowing
    The one place to bury a horse is in the heart of her master.

    Be well,
    Arlene

  3. M's mum

    This is so sad, and you will grieve and you will be right to grieve. But you will also know that you have been strong when she needed you to be, and that you have done right when she told you her time had come. Truly, you have listened to your horse.

    I wish you strength in the days and weeks to come.

    Do you know about the Rainbow Bridge? If not, I can send you a copy or just do an internet search and you will find it. I take enormous strength from this and I hope you will too.

  4. I’m sorry to hear it’s Rosie’s time to go, but by reading your story I’m sure it’s the right time. I wish you all the strength you need to come to peace with the loss of this great friend.

  5. a

    Sorry to hear Rosie’s time has come, she is a lovely, gentle lady

  6. Maire, I am so very sorry, but I also know you are doing the difficult but right thing to listen to her and to your heart and help her move on to the next place. I wrote recently that this spring and summer seems to be an especially hard one for a number of us – so many animal friends are leaving this year. Your story of Rosie is especially touching to me as I am dealing with Salina and her own aging process. Sending lots of love and light your way – I do believe the spirits of the animal family members stay close to us and visit us when we need them. I feel absolutely sure this will be true for Rosie and for you.

  7. Thank you all for your very kind comments. It is good to know that Rosie has made friends through this blog. She was such a sweetheart.

    Right now, my priority is to look after Ben. I am very fortunate in that he has a ready made herd at Sandra’s, who were all waiting at the gate as I brought him there, straight after Rosie died. What do they sense? Sandra’s two mares, Cassie and Minnie, stay near Ben in her fields. I am looking for another pony as I cannot bring Ben back here alone.